It could be that part of the reason they are not so common here is that Turkish society is still very much group-oriented and has a strong emphasis on family.
A few foreigners living in Turkey mentioned this point to me not too long ago. And while back in the US recently I was reminded of how prominent support groups of all kinds are in America and how much they are appreciated by the community.
On May 10 an American airline, Delta, sponsored the American Cancer Society event Relay for Life. The airline staff was keen to make it a success. I was flying on this day back to Turkey, and at each of the three American airports where I stopped I was approached by Delta employees and other volunteer workers for a contribution to help save lives from cancer. Many of them exhorted me to “help create a world with more birthdays.” Relay for Life is a unique celebration of life.
In case you are not familiar with this special event, let me just explain that during Relay for Life, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. The reason for this is symbolic: Cancer never sleeps, and therefore, relays are overnight events up to 24 hours long. Many people turn out for them.
Every support group relies on volunteers and sponsorship in order to be successful. The American Cancer Society is grateful for corporate sponsors such as Delta who make the annual Relay for Life event possible.
Nearly everyone in the world has had a loved one or someone close suffer or pass away because of cancer.
Participants in Relay for Life in America alone, each year, number more than 3.5 million people in more than 5,000 communities, and are joined by communities in 19 other countries. These people gather to take part in this global phenomenon and raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer.
I have not heard of this particular event or one similar for cancer patients and family and friends in Turkey, and yet there are many Turks who are victims of this dreadful disease every year. From research I have read, cancer has been increasing in Turkey.
According to a study titled “Cancer Trends and Incidence and Mortality Patterns in Turkey” (June 17, 2010), published in the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, cancer illness and mortality rates have been increasing in Turkey. The article states that in Turkey, cancer incidence rates rise due to individual and environmental risk factors as well as due to improvements in collecting data and an increase in access to health services. In short, the article reports that based on the Ministry of Health’s Department of Cancer Control database, cancer has increased between 2002 and 2005, and the growth rate for men is higher (9.7 percent) than for women (8.6 percent). The most common cancer types in Turkey are lung (with an incidence of 30.13 per 100,000 and is higher among males), and then prostate, skin, breast and stomach. The fact that lung cancer is high among Turks comes as no surprise as many Turks are heavy smokers. A high rate of skin cancer is also inevitable as many Turks cannot afford to purchase suntan lotion to protect their skin.
Medical tourism is a growing industry in Turkey. You can receive excellent medical care in some private hospitals, which have all the latest equipment and facilities and a highly trained medical staff. It is rather ironic, though, that Turkey can offer affordable medical tourism for cancer patients from abroad while there are Turks who cannot afford high-quality treatment and are unaware of how to prevent cancer.
Turkey also has many well-qualified doctors who work in government hospitals. But medical staff who work in government hospitals struggle with the challenge to provide sound diagnoses, etc., due to the lack of equipment and facilities. Those who suffer the most, though, are the patients who have long waits -- time is against them.
Hopefully, in time, government hospitals will improve and more support groups will become available. Through cancer support groups, people can find healing, comfort and support in others who have lost a loved one to the disease and have a chance to meet people in the community who are equally passionate about finding an end to the disease in our lifetime.